Not long ago, my grocery store of choice stopped carrying my favorite gluten-free breakfast bars. I liked to take these fruit-flavored bars to work to have for a late-morning snack. So when it came time for me to do another Tribune Cooks column, my first thought was to find something to replace those breakfast bars.
Initially, I was going to make some kind of gluten-free granola bar or some other kind of snack bar that's somewhere between a cookie and health food.
I ended up abandoning the idea of healthy food all together when I remembered my mom's go-to muffin recipe.
Tribune Chronicle / Mary Beth Wyko
These assorted sweet muffins, shown above and below, were made with honey instead of sugar and were customized to take advantage of honey’s flavor.
Sunday mornings meant a big family breakfast before church when I was growing up. During the rest of the week, we had cereal, toaster pastries or frozen waffles for breakfast, but on Sundays, Mom and Dad put a full, hot breakfast on the table. Eggs, bacon, pancakes, muffins - on Sundays, we had the works. Though my parents, Al and Liz Sweet, didn't hesitate to use convenience foods liked boxed blueberry muffin mix or those tubes of cinnamon rolls when necessary - they did have four kids to get ready for church, after all - on occasion, Mom would take out her Betty Crocker's Cookbook and make sweet muffins from scratch.
It's a recipe she's used enough that the cookbook falls open to that page, and there are tell-tale stains in the book that are the mark of something good. I remember making these muffins myself as I learned to cook, and they probably made an appearance on some Mother's Day past when we kids would take over the kitchen (with Dad's help) to make breakfast for Mom.
Since the Tribune Cooks are focusing on cooking with honey over the next few weeks, I studied the recipe a bit to see how I could take advantage of our common ingredient. I decided to replace the sugar in the recipe with honey and to come up with add-ins to compliment the flavor of the honey.
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup salad oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Heat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease the bottoms of 12 medium muffin cups or use paper wrappers. Beat egg; stir in milk and oil. Mix in remaining ingredients just until flour is moistened. Batter should be lumpy.
Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golen brown. Immediately remove from pan.
SOURCE: Betty Crocker's Cookbook
Mary Beth's variations
Substitute 1/2 cup honey for sugar. Hint: Swirl a bit of oil in the measuring cup before putting the honey in, and it will slide right out of the cup and make for easy washing.
Substitute all-purpose gluten-free flour plus 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum.
Divide muffin mix into four separate mixing bowls.
For lemon muffins, add 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract or lemon juice and approximately 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest.
For orange muffins, add 1/4 teaspoon orange extract or orange juice and approximately 1/2 teaspoon orange zest.
For pecan muffins, stir in a handful of pecans, chopped.
Serve warm with butter and a drizzle of honey.
I ended up making four different kinds of muffins - regular sweet muffins, lemon muffins, orange muffins and pecan muffins - by dividing the batter into separate mixing bowls. An ice cream scoop works well for measuring batter into muffin tins, so to make my flavored muffins, I put three scoops of batter into each bowl.
For the pecan muffins, I took a handful of pecans, chopped them up and stirred them into the batter. For the lemon muffins, I used 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract and about 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest. The orange muffins were the same with 1/4 teaspoon orange extract and 1/2 teaspoon orange zest. Keep in mind, these were for three muffins apiece. If you want to make a dozen lemon or orange muffins, multiply my measurements by four. You could also use lemon or orange juice instead of flavored extract. I just happened to have extract on hand.
Though I'm not usually a huge citrus fan, I was pleased with how the lemon and orange muffins turned out. The flavor was the perfect mix of citrus tang and sweetness, especially when I slathered the warm muffins in butter and a drizzle of more honey. The plain and pecan muffins were good as well, but they didn't have that extra zing of the citrus muffins.
This is a recipe that's made to be customized. Mom's cookbook offers seven different variations, and for this article, I just made up my own. Throw in some chocolate chips if you've got a sweet tooth, or add fruit if you're looking for something a little more healthy. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
And with Mother's Day just a few short days away, maybe you can surprise Mom with a basket of muffins in her favorite flavor for Sunday's breakfast.